The Journey of Anders Sparrman
The Journey of Anders Sparrman is a biographical novel of the life of the 18th-century naturalist, explorer, and physician. The narrative begins in Anders’s boyhood in a Swedish parsonage. As a student, Anders meets Professor Linnaeus, the renowned naturalist and classifier of species. Linnaeus sponsors Sparrman on an expedition to China, in the capacity of botanist and surgeon aboard a Swedish East India vessel. Anders returns to Sweden with his grandfather’s chest filled with, “seeds, fossils and plants … all of which took their place in Linnaeus’ library.” Anders sails again with the East India Company to South Africa, eventually joining Captain Cook’s second circumnavigation of the globe.
In Africa, Sparrman makes his most significant discoveries, both in natural philosophy and in his own character. He is appalled by the enslavement of the native peoples in Africa. He describes a “frenzy prevailing here, a convulsion of wantonness and frustration that gives rise to excesses.” In later life, Sparrman is encouraged the King of Sweden to prohibit the slave trade. Yet his collections of fauna and flora and experiences in Africa form the paramount episode in Sparrman’s life. Returning to Sweden, he does not fit in with the bureaucratic officialdom. Anders Sparrman ends his journey as physician to the poor in Stockholm, having found a measure of happiness with his companion Lotta. The novel is fascinating both in detail and insight on the life and times, the science and discoveries of an important Swedish naturalist and explorer.